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How to Motivate Employees to Clean Up

Get your workgroup to create a system that encourages cleaning common areas.

By
Stever Robbins,
June 20, 2011
Episode #179

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Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but it turns out most of us don't aspire to be Godly. We're happy just to be human. And messy. In fact, Eden wrote in saying, "Every few weeks, my co-workers and I decide we'll clean up after ourselves and keep our public space tidy. Nothing changes. We leave mugs in the break room, and we just walk past, leaving them there. How can we start picking up after ourselves?"

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How to Motivate Employees to Clean Up

You know what the irony is, here? I'll bet your co-workers have kids at home. I'll bet those kids have messy rooms, and I'll bet the parents yell and scream at the kids to clean their room. Actually, that makes a lot of sense. Their kids mess up their home, and they retaliate subconsciously by messing up the office. The human brain is a wonderful thing for spreading misery far and wide.

Use Peer Pressure to Motivate Employees to Clean Up

It sounds like your whole office likes the idea of cleaning up. That makes things easier. You can use your creativity to come up with several different ways to make that happen, and then have the group choose which way(s) to adopt.

This being the workplace, and most workplaces being ruled by fear, terror, and shame, those are probably the first tools that we would reach for. Agree to throw away any mug left uncleaned for more than a day. Or label everyone's mugs so you know who the culprits are, and have a big wall of shame where you pin a picture of people who leave dirty dishes. Call it "The Wall of Ninnies Who Need a Mommy to Pick Up After Them."

Try Humiliation...or Money

Each time you see someone who's listed on the wall, ridicule them and insult their ancestry, their children, their taste in clothes, and their sexual prowess. When your boss or office visitors come by, make sure to walk by the poster and sweetly mention how much you admire your co-workers, who are brave enough to wallow in their own filth and display it publicly. Once you reduce them to tears once or twice, they'll stop.

Instead of emotion, you could fine people money. If your mug gets discovered, it goes into the Cupboard of Doom. In order to get a mug out of the cupboard, the culprit must pay $5. Then you can use the money to buy cotton candy and unicorn treats for everyone in the office who has been good enough to keep the kitchen clean.

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